Prevalence of Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) in students, 4-15 years, attending
(A study commissioned by the Mc Cam Child Development and Resource Centre)
One of the most frequently diagnosed mental health problems of children globally is Attention-Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD), a major concern of child health specialists and educators because it typically undermines a child’s learning potential and impairs social skills and behaviour.
This study sought to determine the prevalence of ADHD in Jamaican students, using a purposive sample of 243 pre-school to secondary level students, 4 – 15 years, attending urban and
The results indicate almost a quarter of the sample (19.6%) had significantly high symptoms of inattention or hyperactivity-impulsivity as reported by either parent or teacher, with a 3% prevalence rate of the disorder; a rate that is similar to that reported in the international literature. While ADHD symptoms were not found to be related to socio-economic differences, students in urban schools, particularly those in inner city communities, were more likely to be rated as having ADHD symptoms. Teachers were also more likely to rate boys as hyperactive and/or impulsive than girls. Exposure to violence was identified as a key contributing factor why students in inner city schools were more likely to have ADHD symptoms. Medical factors associated with symptom presentation were not strong, with only maternal stress during pregnancy being associated with ADHD symptoms. Of significant association also was a family history of attention problems and hyperactivity as well as family history of drug abuse. Children with ADHD symptoms were also more likely to be in families where there was excessive family conflict, aggressive outbursts among family members and to be physically or emotionally abused.
We also found these students to be more likely held back in class, suspended from school and their parents called in for special conferencing. While students with ADHD symptoms were no more likely than others to get adequate resource help in the classroom, they were however getting extra help in literacy.
These results indicate that students with ADHD symptoms who do not meet the diagnostic criteria of the disorder nonetheless need to be managed. Particular attention and resource help need to be paid to schools in inner city communities but in general, conflict-free and healthy family life habits beginning from pregnancy need to be promoted.
Dr Audrey M Pottinger, PhD
The University of the West Indies